As fighting intensifies between Israel and Hezbollah, discussion on the jihadi forums focused on the impact of these actions on the mujahideen in the region, and to the longer term Middle East strategy for the global jihad. A concisely written article, entitled “The Dangers of the Events in Lebanon and Palestine,” looked to the strategic calculations in the conflict and also to the best way for the mujahideen to capitalize on inciting further violence between Israel and Iran, creating an opening for the Sunni mujahideen. The article by “Barbarossa” (likely in reference to the 15th century Ottoman admiral and mercenary of the Mediterranean known to Europe as “Red Beard”) was posted on the tajdeed.co.uk forum on July 17 at the following URL: https://www.tajdeed.org.uk/forums/showthread.php?s=47857d1b6a9b1d4bf5c036249e1afb96&threadid=43519.
The author focuses on Iran’s involvement and larger designs on the region: “As Sheikh Hamid al-Ali mentioned in his exceptional piece, the reason for the explosion of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel has its origins in the clash between Iran and America, or as Hamid al-Daqiqa termed it, in the clash between the designs of the Safavid-Sasanid enterprise and those of the Zionist-Crusaders in the Islamic world. And the criminal group in Tehran exploits the Arab Shiites as a tool to realize their ambitious designs. Thus in Lebanon they exploit the spirit of revolution—which they established in the first place after the Israeli occupation—in order to ignite the region at the ideal time. And in Iraq they exploit the spirit of revenge and reprisals which they fostered themselves following their military loss in the effort to rule an Iraqi state…widening conflict in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula—in both cases, the battlefield is outside of Iran, in Arab lands.”
The author then assesses the motivations behind Iran’s involvement in the conflict in southern Lebanon in much the same political terms as some Western analysts: “It is clear that the missile strikes against Hezbollah came at the most opportune time for Iran, after the failure of nuclear talks with the European Union and prior to the second summit in Russia, which was to bring the issue of the Iranian nuclear program to the top of the agenda, and present a unified position to the UN Security Council. And the U.S. is aware of Iran’s aims in these operations and that it is trying to shake the Western alliance with Russia and China which America has strived to build over recent months to oppose Iran with a unified front. However, Iran was able to destroy these efforts with malice, igniting the conflict between Lebanon and Israel…”
Such strategic analysis on jihadi discussion forums is not new. Yet, this assessment also provides insights into the broader political and military picture in real time. In this climate of continuous reprisal bombings over the past six days and the widespread destruction of infrastructure in Lebanon, talk of a wider regional war has greater credibility.
Barbarossa sees Iran’s actions in “the game” as effective and shrewd, while he finds the ideology of the Shiites abhorrent, as do the vast majority of Salafi-Jihadists. The argument proceeds to state that Israel is playing “the game” by the same rules as Iran, and they may well have the same end goals. He states, “Even until today, Israel does not consider a strike against the headquarters of the Iranian revolution that proclaims to be present in southern Lebanon and is responsible for [Hezbollah’s] medium-range missiles…And the party of Hassan Nasrallah is no more than a page in the book of the game.”
The dangers of the current situation, however, also present opportunities for the global jihad movement, which seeks to put forth a unified doctrine and sees the Shiites as unbelievers and lawful targets in conflict. It goes on to say, “because the annihilation of Hezbollah means opening the battlefield to the return of the Sunni jihad, especially in as much as al-Qaeda will forge a path into Lebanon through the Palestinian camps and Sunni northern Lebanon, which now makes for a fertile ground for their recruitment. This is, by every measure, a disastrous development for Israel.”
The article was met with praise on the forum, with statements like, “By God, I hope al-Qaeda is able to benefit from these circumstances…” Additionally, while this posting represents the more insightful and adept of the strategic analysis on the jihadi forums, there is a proliferation of material available being avidly debated. Even without a central body creating jihadi strategy, individual contributors such as Barbarossa are of great value to the jihadi movement. Indeed, such insight is of benefit to all parties following the implications of the widening conflict in Lebanon and Israel. If his analysis holds true, the Salafi-Jihadist movement, of which al-Qaeda is a part, may well escalate conflict between Israel and Iran to draw the region into war in an attempt to later strike both states in a time of weakness.